John Deere Classic Invitee Wins Prestigious Ben Hogan Award

26 05 2009

Over the Memorial Day weekend, Clemson’s Kyle Stanley won the Ben Hogan Award given to the nation’s top college golfer – and John Deere Classic fans will have a chance to see him later this summer in the Quad Cities.

Kyle is one of five up-and-coming young stars who have accepted special invitations to play in this year’s John Deere Classic, which has a history of giving its so-called “exemptions” to the next generation of top players.

Zach Johnson, you may recall, received two such invitations back when he was trying to make it on the mini-tours. Also among those receiving exemptions were Camillo Villegas, Lucas Glover, Nick Watney, David Toms, Justin Leonard, and Tiger Woods. The rest, as they say, is history.

Kyle, who just completed his junior year at Clemson, received the award Friday (May 22) at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, which co-sponsors the award with Chesapeake Energy and the Golf Coaches Association of America.

This week, he plays in his final event as an amateur, the NCAA Championship at Inverness Country Club in Toledo, Ohio, before beginning his pursuit of a PGA Tour career. Colonial is hosting the PGA Tour’s Crowne Plaza Invitational this week.

Kyle is a native of Gig Harbor, Washington, which is 11 miles north of Tacoma and about an hour from Seattle.

How did Kyle get all the way from the Northwest to the Southeast? He says he went to Clemson because of the golf program’s storied history, head coach Larry Penley, and assistant coach Jordan Byrd, brother of 2007 John Deere Classic champion Jonathan Byrd.

The Hogan Award takes into account a player’s performance in both college and amateur tournaments from the prior 12-month period, in Kyle’s case May 2008 through May 2009.

During that time, Kyle has won two amateur events – the Southern Amateur in Orlando and the Jones Cup in Sea Island, Georgia – and one college event – the Carpet Classic in Dalton, Georgia. He also finished in the top 10 in seven of his 10 college tournaments and played in both the 2008 U.S Open and the U.S. Amateur. His college stroke average was 71.70.

The other two semifinalists for this year’s Hogan Award were Oklahoma State’s Rickie Fowler, who won the award last year as a freshman, and Indiana’s Jorge Campillo of Spain.

The Hogan Award was presented for the first time in 2002 and quickly has become one of amateur golf’s more prestigious awards. A couple of the featured speakers at last Friday’s presentation dinner at Colonial were Jim Nance of CBS Sports, who anchors much of the network’s golf coverage, and his boss and Colonial member Lance Barrow.

Ben Hogan won the first two pro events at Colonial and went on to win there three more times during his career. The course hence earned the name “Hogan’s Alley” and a special room in the clubhouse features Hogan memorabilia.

The other four young players who have received sponsor exemptions are Philip Francis, Danny Lee, Jack Newman, and Brady Schnell.

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